One year after Erdogan shakeup, Turkish military braces for another

Special to

ANKARA — Turkey’s military, under the control of the Islamist
government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, was bracing for its second
shakeup in as many years.

On Aug. 1, the Supreme Military Council convened for its annual session
to decide on promotion and retirement in the military. The decisions were
expected to determine the fate of scores of generals and admirals under
arrest and charged with plotting a coup against Erdogan.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, front center. Tensions and mistrust are high between the staunchly secularist army and the government. /Getty Images

“Distancing the Turkish military from the coup-making tradition, an
unlawful regime and anti-democratic aspirations would by no means ruin the structure of the Turkish armed forces,” Umit Kardas, a retired military judge, said. “Military staff with coup inclinations should be removed.”

In 2011, Erdogan, who chairs the council, oversaw the replacement of
numerous generals, including the chief of staff, amid protests of the
prosecution of officers charged with plotting a coup. In nearly five years of arrests and prosecution, there have not been any clear evidence of a military attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

The Erdogan campaign against the military has resulted in the arrest of 68 generals and admirals. Military sources said 40 of the detainees have sought to be promoted at the current military council session.

“The Turkish Armed Forces law also says a military staff member who is
standing trial on a charge that requires a jail sentence of more than five
years should be suspended,” Resat Petek, a retired prosecutor, told the
Turkish daily Zaman. “Yet there is passive resistance within the military
against suspensions.”

Many of those detained have been accused of seeking to undermine Erdogan
and his ruling Justice and Development Party through a campaign on the
Internet. Journalists and academics critical of the prime minister have also
been arrested and interrogated.

Analysts assert that Erdogan has gained full control over the Turkish
military command. They cited the appointment in August 2011 of Gen. Necdet
Ozel, who replaced Chief of Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner, who along with three service
commanders resigned in protest of the prosecutions.

One casualty of the current four-day council session, scheduled to end
on Aug. 4, was expected to be Air Force commander Gen. Mehmet Erten. Erten has been
blamed for an air strike that killed 34 Kurdish civilians in December 2011.

“Plans for massive retirements or discharges are announced one year
beforehand in developed countries to allow the military to prepare,” [Ret.]
Col. Mesut Ulker, today a military analyst, said.

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